Jump to ContentJump to Main Navigation
Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew$

Jeffrey S. Librett

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823262915

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823262915.001.0001

Show Summary Details
Page of

PRINTED FROM FORDHAM SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Fordham University Press, 2019. All Rights Reserved. Under the terms of the licence agreement, an individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in FSO for personal use (for details see www.fordham.universitypressscholarship.com/page/privacy-policy). Subscriber: null; date: 18 April 2019

Taking Up Groundlessness, Fulfilling Fulfillment:

Taking Up Groundlessness, Fulfilling Fulfillment:

Schopenhauer’s Orientalist Metaphysics between Indians and Jews

Chapter:
(p.176) Chapter 6 Taking Up Groundlessness, Fulfilling Fulfillment
Source:
Orientalism and the Figure of the Jew
Author(s):

Jeffrey S. Librett

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823262915.003.0007

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the tensions between Schopenhauer’s very advanced thought concerning the Oriental-Occidental relationship, on the one hand, and his own inadequacy to this thought, on the other hand. Concerning the first: in principle he assumes groundlessness, rather than denying it; he makes impossible all typology; and he overcomes Eurocentrism in philosophy and religion. Concerning the second, as I show in detail, he erases these insights in various ways: he envisions the overcoming of groundlessness through the will’s self-negation; he claims a privilege for his own philosophical “letter”; and he explicitly invokes typology in contexts that are constitutive for his philosophical position. These contexts include: his treatment of the history of religion, his discussion of church-state relations, his characterization of his own ethics, and his positioning of his philosophy as a whole with respect to pantheism and Spinozism. In showing how Schopenhauer repeatedly turns against his own best (and most difficult) insights, the chapter also analyzes his virulent and influential anti-Semitism, and exposes the ways in which it is integrally related to his thought on the Orient, and to his philosophy as a whole.

Keywords:   Schopenhauer, Jews, Indians, will, groundlessness, typology, Spinozism, ethics, Eurocentrism, church and state

There lives only in the innermost depths of his consciousness the wholly obscure presentiment that all this is indeed not really so strange to him, but has a connexion [Zusammenhang] with him from which the principium individuationis cannot protect him. From this presentiment arises that ineradicable dread, common to all human beings … which suddenly seizes him, when by any chance they become puzzled over [irre werden am] the principium individuationis, in that the principle of sufficient reason in one or other of its forms seems to undergo an exception [eine Ausnahme zu erleiden scheint]. For example, when it appears that some change has occurred without a cause, or a deceased person exists again; or when in any other way the past or the future is present, or the distant is near. The fearful terror at anything of this kind is based on the fact that they suddenly become puzzled over [irre werden an] the forms of knowledge of the phenomenon [Erscheinung] which alone hold their own individuality separate from the rest of the world. This separation, however, lies only in the phenomenon and not in the thing-in-itself; and precisely on this rests eternal justice. In fact, all temporal happiness stands, and all prudence proceeds, on undermined ground [auf untergrabenem Boden].

—ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, The World as Will and Representation

Historical subjects have a decidedly detrimental effect only when they restrict the painter to a field chosen arbitrarily, and not for artistic but for other purposes. This is particularly the case when the field is poor in picturesque and significant objects, when, for example, it is the history of a small, isolated, capricious, hierarchical (i.e., ruled by false notions) obscure people, like the Jews, despised by the great contemporary nations of the East and of the West…. [It] is to be regarded generally as a great misfortune that the people whose former culture was to serve mainly as the basis [Unterlage] of our own were not, say, the Indians or the Greeks, or even the Romans, but just these Jews.

—ARTHUR SCHOPENHAUER, The World as Will and Representation

(p.177) Schopenhauer occupies a very important but also ambiguous place in modern Orientalist metaphysics. To circumscribe his place, I begin by delineating three interrelated displacements he effects within the German (and more broadly the European) philosophical tradition.

First, he makes explicit like no philosophical thinker before him (with the possible complex exception of Schelling) the confrontation with groundlessness that occasions modern Orientalism.1 Indeed, at least up to a certain point, he is capable of affirming and assuming this groundlessness in its necessity. Let me expand on this point briefly before proceeding.

Schopenhauer assumes or accepts groundlessness under the figure of the will. The will is the essence of things—the Ding an Sich—and it is the ground of appearances—it is the will to appearances—which arise out of it insofar as it is subjected to the principle of sufficient reason, the (mere) form of appearances. But in itself, prior to the application of the principle of sufficient reason, the will is groundless: It has no origin, end, form, or meaningful content. It is pure hunger, striving, struggle, desire without possibility of satisfaction. Because it seeks always to fill the lack that constitutes it—the lack that is the ground of its own groundlessness—the will is the endless and groundless search precisely for a ground.

The foundation that the will seeks would further comprise precisely its fulfillment, for the will has to be understood, in temporal terms (i.e., in its ineluctable appearance as representation or “Vor-stellung”), as an endless (and retrospective) anticipation, in figural terms as (metaleptic) prolepsis: the prefiguration of a fulfillment that can never (re)arrive. Accordingly, Schopenhauer literally and repeatedly insists that the will can find no fulfillment, or “Erfüllung.”2

This brings us to Schopenhauer’s second radical contribution, entailed by the first. The assumption of eternal groundlessness, which cuts off all possibility of fulfillment or realization, in principle makes impossible all typology. It renders questionable, for example, at once the Orientalist reference to the East as to a transcendent-historical ground of the West and the typological appropriation of that ground for the West qua realization. This implicit delegitimation of the typological model of prefiguration and fulfillment (wherein, as Erich Auerbach shows, historical reality and the donation of meaning coincide) follows logically from Schopenhauer’s willingness to wrestle in a serious way with groundlessness as such. For an eternal lack of transcendent foundations means quite simply that fulfillment as cessation of striving is no longer an option, or at any rate that fulfillment is no longer quite what it used to be. Prefiguration and retrospection become ubiquitous—they come to pervade the self-same instant, (p.178) rending it into multiply separated renditions of itself. Typological relations complicate themselves, in principle, out of existence. This second contribution occurs, then, on the level of (biblical) hermeneutics, but it therefore affects also, of course, the ideologies of religious history and modern racism that depend on this hermeneutics.

The third aspect of Schopenhauer’s intervention that one must stress here occurs on the level of the philosophy of history, especially in its Hegelian lineage, which is still in the process of articulating itself as Schopenhauer contests the adequacy of its foundations. Schopenhauer’s move at this level affects the ideologies of concrete cultural history within this philosophy of history as well as, conversely, the philosophy of history that influences in turn these ideologies. Although his thought develops in an Orientalist age—marked by various Indomanias and Egyptomanias, preferences for Persians, and so on—more than any other modern Western philosopher before him, Schopenhauer is able to see the Oriental thought he most admires—ancient Indian thought—as the equal of any Western philosophical achievement. This indication of the limits of Eurocentrism follows from Schopenhauer’s implicit critique of the prefiguration-fulfillment model—as the contrast with Schlegel’s text on the Indians and with Hegel’s Lectures on the Philosophy of History illustrates nicely. To see the Indian East as always already leading toward its fulfillment in the West, for example, would require that Schopenhauer place himself above the East. But this is precisely something that he is in principle disinclined to do, even if he struggles against this disinclination, as we shall see. Finally, this third insight reinforces the first: Schopenhauer’s idealization of ancient Indian pessimism, his view of it as the ne plus ultra of philosophical achievements, strengthens his commitment to the notion of the groundlessness of the will. Ancient Hindu thought confirms Schopenhauer and guides him in his strictly philosophical explication of that problem: the articulation of the (Leibnizian) principle of sufficient reason with a revision of the Kantian transcendental account of experiential possibility-conditions.

These three Schopenhauerian gestures or displacements, then, hang together tightly, in a certain Zusammenhang. The positing of an abyss at the ontological origin, the questioning of typology, and the recognition of ancient Indian thought beyond the purview of Eurocentrism (at least within certain limits)—these three points cohere in Schopenhauer’s oeuvre such that to unsettle one is to unsettle them all. They are also points, however, that challenge Schopenhauer himself. For Schopenhauer is not quite ready to yield to the victor—his own innovations—the more traditional stance that constitutes his point of departure.

(p.179) Acknowledgment of an irrecoverable loss of foundations, first of all, does not go without saying. Second, the renunciation of two thousand years of Western, Christian orientation in Heilsgeschichte is difficult to undertake in one go. And third, the loss of Europe as center of authority implies for Schopenhauer his own superfluity, the nonnecessity of his precise way of putting things—an implication hard for any philosopher to accept, as we have seen also in the case of Hegel. It is not my intention, of course, to make excuses here for Schopenhauer’s shortcomings or lapses in rigor. Rather, the point is to understand them. For Schopenhauer’s influential contribution to the metaphysics of Orientalism and Orientalist metaphysics can best be measured and described as the tension between his positive—and indeed (in the etymological sense) radical—contributions and his own resistance to them.3

Accordingly, in what follows I consider interrelated aspects of Schopenhauer’s work—linked contexts of systematic discussion—in which he contradicts and disavows each of his three main contributions. (1) The first of these is Schopenhauer’s doctrine of salvation, the negative telos of all striving, the end as both curtailment and goal. I suggest here that the very notion of a possible negation of the will-to-live disavows or denies the groundlessness of the will in a problematic way. (2) Next, I consider the tension between Schopenhauer’s sense that Indian philosophy cannot be outdone and his rather different claim that his philosophy grasps the ancient Oriental wisdom in its most proper form.4 Wherever Schopenhauer wants to privilege his own specific articulation, to return with a difference is to posit oneself as the fulfillment of the foreign anticipation of one’s own thought.5 (3) I then consider four contexts in which Schopenhauer has explicit recourse to—depends on and refuses or fails to mourn—typological ideology. Like the notion of the self-negation of the will, this recurrent recourse to typology disavows the implications of the doctrine of the will-to-representation as infinite deferral of fulfillment. Consideration of these contexts demonstrates that Schopenhauer’s invocation of typology is not incidental to his philosophical project, isolated in the sphere of his politics of religion or his privately held stereotypical beliefs about given religious groups. Rather, it organizes his entire conception of the relationship between his philosophical achievement and the philosophical tradition. (A) The first of these contexts is Schopenhauer’s (philosophico-politically weighted) history of positive religion, or his theological ideology, and in particular his construal of the relationships between Indian, Jewish, and Christian traditions. (B) Second, Schopenhauer problematically invokes typological motifs and notions of a self-grounding absolute (p.180) within his argument for the separation of church and state, which doubles as an argument for the separation of philosophy from religion, and which begins, in addition, to envision the politicization of Schopenhauer’s own thought. (C1) Third, Schopenhauer orients or positions his entire (ethical) philosophy with respect to the previous history of all ethical philosophy by means of a key reference to typology. (C2) Finally, and more specifically, Schopenhauer again invokes the typological model from an explicitly Christian identity-position in order to construct his relationship to pantheism in particular, and more narrowly still to Spinozism. Here we arrive at the end of the more strictly philosophical trajectory within this book, which runs from Spinoza to Schopenhauer.

In each of these invocations of typology, Schopenhauer positions the Jews as the representatives of the law (viz., the law of representation, the principle of sufficient reason), a law he hopes to overcome so as to achieve redemption, by sacrificially casting its representatives out. Schopenhauer’s realization of the Indian origin, then, will proceed—not surprisingly from this historical distance, but at a level of philosophical complexity and involvement that we perhaps rarely appreciate or adequately comprehend—by way of a sacrificial exclusion of the Jews.

I Know There Is Radical Absence, But Still

Schopenhauer’s description of the world as representation haunted by lack implies the impossibility of fulfillment in a transcendent presence, hence the impossibility of any ultimate foundation. However, the normative implication he draws from this description—the moral of his story, or rather his eudaemonistic ethics of world-renunciation—disavows this impossibility. To renounce the world is to escape the directionlessness, formlessness, causelessness, and emptiness of the will. The exceptional status of the momentary renunciation in aesthetic contemplation becomes the rule that replaces all rule with radical freedom in the saint’s sustained self-negation.6

Schopenhauer’s gesture of disavowal here entails not only that the selfnegation of the will contradicts the depiction of the world as a will that groundlessly grinds on, but further that this self-negation necessarily contradicts itself. For the negation of the will is always haunted or doubled by an identification with the will as self-affirmation: The negation is always carried out in the name of an affirmation of what one is—of the freedom and autonomy that only escape from the will can achieve—but what one (p.181)

Taking Up Groundlessness, Fulfilling Fulfillment:Schopenhauer’s Orientalist Metaphysics between Indians and Jews

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860). Daguerreotype. Between 1855 and 1860.

(Bildarchiv Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin / Art Resource, N.Y.)

is, is at the same time always will, and freedom can characterize only the will. One still affirms oneself in self-denial (as indeed Nietzsche, and the Kafka of “A Hunger Artist,” later well understood). Perhaps this structural inseparability of the negation of the will from its affirmation explains why Schopenhauer says that the negation of the will is not something one can ever conquer or achieve once and for all, but that one must always re-achieve it, again and again (497; 391). Nonetheless, Schopenhauer also (p.182) repeatedly claims that the achieved self-negation of the will can coincide with itself, that it is absolutely distinct from the will’s affirmation. In doing so, he denies and loses touch with what may have been his most important philosophical contribution: the theory of the world as representations marked by radical lack (similar to what Lacanians will later call the lack of the Other). It follows that Schopenhauer was a bit too optimistic about the possibility of separating pessimism from optimism, as indeed he was optimistic in envisioning the possibility of any pure self-negation of the will whatsoever (even if only as an exceptional metaphysical state).

Schopenhauer’s disavowal of the absence of a foundation occurs not only explicitly, through his eschatology of world-negation, but also implicitly, on the level of ideologies of religious identity. Notably, he disavows this absence through the way in which he positions his thought with respect to the various traditions that precede him. For these traditions are in his discourse inextricably philosophical and religiocultural. He positions himself, moreover, explicitly in terms of the tradition of figural interpretation by repeatedly characterizing his position with respect to a given predecessor as the equivalent of the New Testament with respect to the Old.

Fulfilling Fulfillment

Merely by claiming both to effect a return to the ancient Oriental truth of nonfulfillment, and to provide this ancient truth with its most perfect articulation, Schopenhauer lays claim to the fulfillment of the (fulfilled) truth of nonfulfillment. He thus implicitly invokes typology in the very moment of its overcoming, even when he doesn’t explicitly allude to the typological tradition. More concretely, he reenacts the Eurocentrism that his high respect for Indian philosophy placed in question. Yet in Schopenhauer’s own terms, to lay claim to the fulfillment (or even to the possibility of the fulfillment) is always an optimistic move. Here, too, then, denying obstinately his own analysis of the will as “unergründlich,” Schopenhauer is optimistic about his own fulfillment (and therefore grounding) of the truth of pessimism. Perhaps this accounts for the reader’s nagging sense of the silliness of Schopenhauer’s insistence on the superiority of his philosophical position over those of others, the puerile character of his insistence on its proper literality.

As we shall continue to see below, moreover, this performative contradiction significantly overdetermines Schopenhauer’s anti-Semitism (and the converse). Evidently, somebody will have to enable Schopenhauer to (p.183) purge his pessimism—and infinitely so—of the ineradicable fault of optimism that not only the claim to have returned to the wisdom of the East (which is the wisdom of the impossibility of any such return) but also, as we saw above, the very hope for a possible negation of the will continue to reveal as integral and crucial aspects of Schopenhauer’s own discourse. This “somebody” will be the “Jews” in this discourse, through which Schopenhauer does his part to lay the apparent foundations for the Aryan Christianity that will play such a terrible role from the late nineteenth through the first half of the twentieth century, and especially, of course, in the 1930s and 1940s. The Jews will function in Schopenhauer as the ground of the loss of the ground (of groundlessness). But one can see much more clearly the way in which Schopenhauer positions himself as fulfillment of the Indian origin, itself always already fulfilled, if one considers this positioning in the more concrete terms of Schopenhauer’s characterization of the principal players (or counters) in his typological schema, which I now consider.

And Around We Go, or Back to Typology—Indian, Jewish, Christian

In his construction of the history of positive religion, Schopenhauer positions himself as fulfilling Christianity—fulfilling fulfillment—by enabling its return to the higher truth of ancient Indian culture (from which Christianity ostensibly stems). This truth was originally uttered prior to the intrusive infusion of Indian culture with the Jewish culture that, for Schopenhauer, poisoned the pessimistic well of Indian wisdom with its optimistic remedy. Let us unpack this position while attempting to specify its precise relationship to the typological schema.

In Schopenhauer’s thought, the ancient Eastern origin appears as split into two extreme forms, the Indian origin (as “our” origin) and the Judaic debasement of that origin (as the alienation of the ground).7 Schopenhauer constructs Judaism as a derivative of a Zoroastrian Persian dualism that itself would derive from the Indian source (more specifically Schopenhauer cites the Indian monism of Indra). On this account, Judaism becomes a debasement, indeed a radical reversal, of the Indian origin of truth, which truth is already at the start the complete realization of its own potential.

Judaism has as its fundamental characteristics [Grundcharakter] realism and optimism which are closely related and are the conditions of theism proper. (p.184) For the latter regards the material world as absolutely real and life as a pleasant gift bestowed on us. Brahmanism and Buddhism, on the other hand, have as their fundamental characteristics idealism and pessimism, for they assign to the world only a dreamlike existence and regard life as the consequence of our guilt. In the doctrine of the Zendavesta whence, as we know, Judaism has sprung, the pessimistic element is represented by Ahriman.8

Judaism arises (or rather falls) out of Zoroastrianism (itself already partially fallen away from Hindu origins) by taking Ormuzd, the principle of light, as Jehovah, while it subordinates to him Ahriman, the principle of darkness, as Satan. And in turn, “Ormuzd is itself another term for Indra” (402; 369). Judaism functions as the radically fallen form of the Persian Wisdom that goes back to the Indian source.

Christianity begins to rediscover Indian wisdom, but it only achieves a partial return to this source. It is composed of Indian wisdom propped—like ivy upon an alien pole, says Schopenhauer—inappropriately onto a Jewish support. “Christ’s teaching … has sprung from Indian wisdom” (415; 380), and “in the New Testament the spirit of Indian wisdom can be scented like the fragrance of a bloom which has been wafted over hills and streams from distant tropical fields” (416; 381). Although he does not provide a detailed trajectory for Indian philosophy from its place of origin and into the Christian worldview, Schopenhauer does allow himself to speculate somewhat (shamelessly), surmising, for example, that perhaps “Jesus was educated by Egyptian priests whose religion was of Indian origin and from whom he had accepted Indian ethics and the notion of an avatar” (418; 383).

One can describe Schopenhauer’s displacement of figural interpretation readily in terms of the ultimately threefold schema of typology I have developed elsewhere at length.9 (See the accompanying illustration, “The circuit of negative fulfillment in Schopenhauer.”) In terms of that analysis, Schopenhauer appears as a very particular example of the “pagan Protestantism” I see as structuring in crucial ways German Geistesgeschichte subsequent to the main phase of romanticism and prior to the rise of philosophical-literary-artistic modernism. In Schopenhauer’s case, the narrative (and dialectical) logic—the circuit of fulfillment—runs as follows. Cultural history, or the path of the Idea (of the abyssal character of things), starts with the literal, spiritual fulfillment (in ancient India). The path passes regressively, then, to the anticipation of the anticipation, or the prefiguration of prefiguration (Judaism, with ancient Persia as the culture of transition, the inauguration of the fall into optimism), which represents (p.185)

Taking Up Groundlessness, Fulfilling Fulfillment:Schopenhauer’s Orientalist Metaphysics between Indians and Jews

The circuit of negative fulfillment in Schopenhauer

a radical materiality into which humanity will have descended. The path of culture returns then in two steps to the fulfillment at the origin (which is, of course, qua will, entirely timeless). First, culture steps up its spirituality so as to shed the negativity of the Jewish letter—here the negativity of the positive (attitude), which translates as the deadness of the materially given, of mechanism, and so on. The result of this partial shedding of the letter is Christianity.10 In the subsequent, culminating step, one ascends out of Christianity into the pure negativity, hence—because the terms are reversed in Schopenhauer—the pure positivity of the Indo-Germanic origin, ancient Sanskrit culture. This last movement of ascension would be the one Schopenhauer’s thought ostensibly enables (and so also constitutes) as the passage from the Christian hybrid back to the purity of the Indic beginning. (Insofar as he occupies this position, Schopenhauer appears here, from his own point of view, as providing a radical inversion of the Persian contribution.) And this last step must consist, finally, in the negation of the Jewish contagion, that is, of the very idea of a possible fulfillment, of hope: (p.186) the liquidation of the contagion of hope embodied in the Jewish conception of law (and in the representativity that this implies).11

Thus, in this displaced repetition of the typological schema, Judaism appears not yet as the prefiguration of the return but as the radical fall away from an Oriental (Edenic) Indian origin, but a radical fall that prefigures the prefiguration itself. Christianity functions there as the partial and still prefigurative return or resurrection of this origin, with the twist that the origin is here a pessimistic one, the fall away from it the plunge into a false optimism. And Schopenhauer’s own philosophy will complete and realize this partial return.

In order to gain a clearer sense of the (sacrificial) rationale for this envisioned negation or liquidation of (Jewish) optimism, it is crucial to consider further the position of the Jews as fall of the origin (which is complicated here by Schopenhauer’s reversal of the positions of fallen and risen). In fact, not only is Judaism essentially fallen, but the only aspect of it that is not fallen, for Schopenhauer, is the narrative of the fall. Judaism falls insofar, and only insofar, as it does not fall (into the narrative of the fall).

From the Old Testament there is nothing corresponding to this [“spirit of Indian wisdom” quoted above] except the Fall which had to be added at once as a corrective to optimistic theism and to which the New Testament was attached. For the Fall is the only point which offers itself to the New Testament and on to which it can hold. (416; 381)

Strikingly, however, in Schopenhauer’s rewriting of the myth of the fall, Judaism stands for Satan, or woman, because it is responsible for the fall. (In causing the fall, Judaism causes the birth of Satan, namely by distinguishing him from God.) Schopenhauer must consequently extirpate from Christianity the “Jewish optimism,” the Satanic negativity that he blames Judaism for causatively extirpating (thus causing our fall away from the Indian origin, causing our fall from the fall). Schopenhauer himself thus remains in what he considers a “Jewish” position in his very polemic against Judaism for having put “us”—the Christian West—into a Jewish position. This ensures, however, that the polemic will never come to an end.

Similarly, Schopenhauer’s polemic against the Jews explicitly situates them as the one exception to the rule that all peoples believe in an afterlife, and even in metempsychosis.12 Yet he fails to note that this makes the Jews not necessarily more optimistic than the rest about the current life, but certainly more pessimistic about the possibility of redemptive fulfillment in the afterlife (as the “wandering Jew”—to whom I return—and his repudiation of Christ threateningly suggest). Schopenhauer’s (p.187) optimism about the possibility of redemptive self-negation therefore contrasts starkly—both in and against his own terms—with Jewish pessimism. This contrast exacerbates Schopenhauer’s need to rid his discourse of its extimate “Jewishness.”

From Typology to the Saint as Philosopher King, or The Jew as Figure of Language

In order to gauge the economy of ideology and insight in Schopenhauer’s oeuvre, one needs to know how his views on religiocultural history express themselves on other levels of his thought. I consider next the level of his minimalist but nonetheless fleetingly adumbrated vision of the way in which his philosophy might come to intervene in the world. Schopenhauer argues for the separation of church and state (and concomitantly for the separation of philosophy from religion) as an intermediate step toward the establishment of a properly philosophical basis for an eventual political reorganization of the state. Here, Schopenhauer’s reliance on the typological tradition provides him with a ready scapegoat, enabling him to cast aside structural uncertainties his own philosophy uncovers and encounters, by designating them as due to a historically contingent accident—Jewish influence. Specifically, the separation of church from state, as he conceives it, ends up depending on the possibility of separating truth—the signified thing-in-itself—from language, or signifying representation. Schopenhauer must therefore disavow the fact that such representation is necessary for the (indirect) presentation of meaning. He must deny the fact that the possibility-condition of the signified is also its impossibility-condition: the signifier itself (or “die Welt als Vorstellung”). Here, too, in line with a long and problematic tradition, the path of this disavowal will be the polemic against the Jews.

Schopenhauer argues explicitly against the linkage of politics with religion in both of its major historical forms. He is against founding the church on the state: He opposes established religions on the post-1648 model of cuius regio, eius religio (“whose realm, his religion”). But he also argues against any neo-medievalizing attempt—like the one the later Schlegel and the Novalis of “Christianity or Europe” envision—to found the state on the church.13 In fact, in this respect he is an adherent or descendant of the Enlightenment (and he prefigures, as it were, the Freud of The Future of an Illusion). He argues that it should be possible to establish an ethical discourse that has nothing to do with positive religious points (p.188) of reference. Such an ethical discourse would have nothing to do with the pretense of revelation, which Schopenhauer characterizes (recalling a Lucretian and Spinozan tradition and anticipating Nietzsche) as the priestly manipulation of the people. In this sense, he represents the secularist position in favor of the separation of church and state, and he explicitly suggests that the progress of science will inevitably lead to the withering away of religion.

However, Schopenhauer also entertains arguments in favor of the unity of religion and politics. In the opening dialogical section of “On Religion” (chapter 15 of Parerga and Paralipomena II), Schopenhauer pits Philalethes, the secularizing philosopher (who most closely resembles his own position elsewhere), against Demopheles, a kind of cultural conservative or perhaps communitarian, who defends religion as a socially and politically necessary popular metaphysics. The dialogue’s literary and philosophical strength, such as it is, consists in the fact that there is some limited degree of parity between the two interlocutors. To Philalethes’ suggestion that we should “leave everyone to form for himself his own creeds” (372; 343), Demopheles responds: “That, indeed, would be a fine business! [Das würde etwas Schönes werden!] A whole people of metaphysicians, explaining things by the light of nature, quarreling with one another, and eventually beating each other up!” (372; 344). Through this response, Schopenhauer makes room in his text for the suspicion that separation of church and state could tend toward a Hobbesian war of all against all, pitting each individual’s private absolutes against those of all the other members of the society. The separation of state from church does not suffice to separate power from belief; it does not purify belief of the violence that inhabits and distorts it. Violence reemerges on a newly chaotic, individualized level when the individual becomes the sovereign who possesses the right to determine the religion of his or her own domestic state of one. For Demopheles, religion can never be separated from politics qua play of power, violence, and opacity. The only thing that the ostensible separation achieves is a displacement of the level on which the politics plays itself out. Consequently, Demopheles argues that one should consciously cultivate the interpenetration of church and state.

As is crucial for what follows, Demopheles bases his argument for public religion on the figural status of such religion. Public religion gives people a common representation of absolutes whose meaning they can all interpret differently while agreeing about its meaningfulness. Public religion ensures through this shared representation a minimal communal cohesion and human solidarity. To be sure, Demopheles acknowledges that religion (p.189) is always an allegorical or mythical—a figural and indirect—presentation of more general truths.14 Further, he grants that religion can maintain itself only by falsely claiming to provide a literal presentation of these truths. Nonetheless, he insistently argues that public religion serves both communal unity within the state and morally righteous behavior.

Schopenhauer counters Demopheles’ proposal, however, by having Philalethes demonstrate its impossibility. Philalethes argues not just that public religion—or unification of state and church—is undesirable, but that it cannot be achieved. He does not merely point to the manifold political destabilizations, genocidal horrors, and moral hypocrisy that are often occasioned by public religions and myths. Going further, to demonstrate the impossibility of public religions he attacks Demopheles’ affirmation of their figurality, from which Demopheles had derived their usefulness in satisfying the metaphysical need of the masses. Philalethes, the philosopher, suggests that to place figures, or simply representations, where truth should be is to do violence to religion. It is to efface—to suppress and risk the destruction of—the philosophical thought to which religion aspires. In short, to unify politics and theology is to efface theology, and so also to fail to unify them. An example of this effacement is the way in which early religious training paralyzes (356; 329) the best minds so that they become dogmatically obstructed.15 To require that beliefs should conform to a particular discursive and ceremonial shape is to limit beliefs to the point of wiping them out. It is to adhere to a dead letter. This is the death of religion, as opposed to its realization in true philosophy. The politicization of religion leads to its death, for Philalethes and to a great extent also for Schopenhauer, if one can judge by his emphasis in other texts on the necessity of secularizing thought.

The two positions on church-state relations base themselves, then, on two different views of figural language in relation to truth. Philalethes, the defender of church-state division, thinks that figural representation effaces the literal truth of things as they are. Demopheles, the defender of church-state unity, thinks that figural representation is of crucial importance because it gives us all we can have of an absent truth (or sense), even if in an indirect, partial, and mediated form. The first rejects mediation; the second accepts it.

Ultimately, however, their differences concern not just figural language in general but more specifically two distinct attitudes toward catachresis. And this should not surprise us, since representation becomes radically problematic (and performative) only at the point where it introduces something new—substituting itself for an absent reality. Answering (p.190) Philalethes’ charge, Demopheles says that public religion “takes the place of pure philosophical truth which is infinitely difficult, and perhaps forever impossible, to reach” (363; 335). (And we will see in the discussion of pantheism below how, in spite of his intention to provide a literal formulation of the “thing-in-itself,” Schopenhauer has recourse to the catechresis of will, thereby fitting—uncomfortably—Demopheles’ definition of religion, as opposed to philosophy.) Philalethes responds sardonically (and figurally—nolens volens playing the game), that religion does this as “a wooden leg takes the place of a natural one” with the difference that “a natural leg was there before the wooden one, whereas religion has everywhere taken a head start from philosophy [überall der Philosophie den Vorsprung abgewonnen hat]” (363; 335), springing ahead on a false leg. For Philalethes, religion is an anticipatory, prefigurative prosthesis of philosophy. Demopheles grants the prosthetic character of representation, yet insists on the necessity of the prosthesis as a catachresis: “All this may be true; but for the man who has no natural leg, a wooden one is of great value…. Man’s metaphysical needs positively demand satisfaction because the horizon of his thoughts must come to an end and cannot remain unbounded” (363; 335). In short, if one does not have the thing in itself (or nature), representations (as artifice) can come in handy. Yet this consideration does not entirely allay Philalethes’ concern that to purvey truth mixed with lies is continually to endanger truth: “Truth in the dress of the lie,” he says, is a “corruptive alliance” (verderbliche Allianz) (361; 334). For him, separation of religion from politics (and of philosophy from religion) means and requires the separation of ideal signified from material signifier. For Philalethes, the separation of religion and politics stands for the possibility of the attainment of literal, spiritual truth beyond the letter.16 As we will see below in the discussion of pantheism and Spinozism, Schopenhauer can never quite come to terms with the fact that the very notion of the thing-in-itself as will is precisely a catechresis. Instead, he insists that the will is the immediate object, and therefore immediately accessible to us as thing-in-itself. Just so, here his Philalethes cannot come to terms with the catachrestic character of any discourse on ultimate things.

We see here, then, that the question of church-state unity or division (and at the same time of the identity or difference of philosophy and religion) depends on that of the unity or division of the signified/signifier couple. Political theology depends here on semiological and rhetorical presuppositions. The politics of positive religion comes down to the question of the status of representations with respect to insight into things in themselves. But the result is that the question of the division or unification (p.191) of church and state becomes an undecidable antinomy as soon as one synthesizes the insights of Demopheles and Philalethes beyond the limits of each of their positions, as the dialogue form itself prompts us to try to do.

To the degree that representations are necessary, that is, to the extent that meanings are necessarily clothed in arbitrary material forms, there is both politicization of religion and at the same time its falsification, the obstruction and loss of truth, as well as the unleashing of violence that such obstruction and loss entail. For the necessity of representation does not do away with its impossibility. Knowledge fails to come into existence as such because belief is carried away by power. The politicization of religion or unification of church and state doubles, therefore, as a division of church and state, if only in the negative sense that the church disappears because spirit has vanished from the scene of the signifier (or representation).

Conversely (i.e., beginning with the opposite premise), if one could possess the ideal truth beyond all representation, one could divide church from state, emancipate knowledge from violence, and free philosophy from religion. It might then be possible, in the case of the exceptional advent of a philosopher-king, to unify the human community around this truth without obscuring it: “But if, as the rarest of exceptions, a philosopher ascends the throne, there arises the most embarrassing disturbance in the whole comedy” (394; 362). The philosophical achievement of religion would enable a politicization of religion in a positive sense hitherto unknown on earth, a unification that would be nonviolent: political rule guided by the truth of the groundlessness of the will and the desirability of its (self-)negation. Here, Schopenhauer’s argument in favor of separation of church and state becomes a vision of (if not quite an argument for) the founding of the state on the philosophical essence of religion. The manner in which Schopenhauer envisions or imagines the political consequences of his pessimism begins to appear, if in a still sketchy or hazy way, in the form of the philosopher-king’s disruption of the “comedy” of the collusion of cynical rulers with manipulative priests whose authority is based on X or Y ostensible revelation (393–94; 361–62).

In sum, and to restate the dialectic of this antinomy more simply in terms of its basis in language: If one unifies signifier and signified, one separates them (the signified is effaced or repressed), but if one separates them, one ends up unifying them (the signified erects a signifying representation of itself as a church or philosophy founds an institutional politics). Hence, what appears to be responsible for the irresolvability of the theopolitical problem—language itself—will have to go away. One will need to get rid of the connectedness of meaning to signifiers that, however, are (p.192) disconnected from them, related to them only figurally, at a distance of nonrelation and impropriety.

In Schopenhauer, as so often elsewhere in Western texts since Paul, this goes by way of the polemic against the Jew as figure of the necessity of figures, as privileged representation of representation as such.17 As the representatives of the “dead letter,” the Jews represent the fact that signifying mediation fails to mediate, that is, fails to produce immediacy—that representation is always only representation, not presence. They represent the fact that not just the ignorant masses but the philosophers, too, are missing the natural leg, and have to stand on the wooden one, perhaps on two wooden legs, legations and delegations of pure representation. Schopenhauer makes this point—blames representation on the Jews—in many ways. I briefly consider four of them here: his characterization of the Jews’ relationships with place, nation, God, and nature.

Concerning place: Schopenhauer quotes with uncritical approval the conventional image of the Jew as “eternal [or wandering] Jew, Ahasverus,” of which Schopenhauer says that he is “never at home, never foreign” (283; 262). It can readily be seen, however, how this exiled status describes representation itself—Vor-stellung—both in Schopenhauer’s sense and more generally. As the Jew is always equally at home (“never foreign”), yet always equally in exile (“never at home”), at once proper and improper, so representation is always the allegorical appearance of the will, but always at a distance, as are figures in relation to their improper sense in general.18

In terms of the question of nation, the Jews represent in negative terms both the unification and the separation of state and church, the effacement of spirit by the signifier and the undesirable drifting of meaning away from all signifying material. And because they make up one cultural entity—the Jews = the Jews—they represent the bad unavoidability of the reversal of each of these poles into its opposite, the theopolitical antinomy that is inseparably a rhetorical-semiological one. On the one hand, the Jews appear for Schopenhauer as embodiments of the principle of theocracy that he explicitly disdains. Judaism is at once a national identity, or political entity, and a religion. It is a theocracy. Consequently, in accordance with his conviction that fusion of church and state annihilates religion, Schopenhauer argues that Judaism is not a confession at all, that is, not a religion but a nation only. On the other hand, if the Jews place their faith at a distance from the states in which they reside, as Schopenhauer likewise stresses, then they also function as an exemplary model of the separation of church and state, which Schopenhauer also, implicitly and ultimately, wishes to overcome, even if while replacing the church of religion with that of philosophy. (p.193) Indeed, since the Jews have persisted as a religious grouping without any state over the last two thousand years—as a kind of ghost (a traditional notion Schopenhauer at one point perpetuates)19—they represent the separation of church from state, the radical autonomization of religion, in an exacerbated way. But because the Jewish people exhibits loyalty to the religiously defined group, it functions equally as a painful reminder that the separation of church and state tends to reverse itself into its opposite. The political space—exercise of public power—tends to reconstitute itself on the level of the ostensibly privatized religion. In sum, the Jews represent the inseparability of the unification of church and state from their separation, because the Jews represent the inseparability of the unification of the signified and the signifier from their disjunction, the uncanny interpenetration of these two extremes.

Third, while Schopenhauer says that they do not constitute a confession, but only a nation, he nonetheless makes the Jews responsible for nothing less than theism qua monotheism. Here too the allegory of language will not be hard to discover. Schopenhauer claims that “monotheism and Judaism” are “convertible terms” (Wechselbegriffe [285; 262]) and speaks of “Jewish theism” (398; 365) and of the way in which “theism is weighing like a nightmare on all spiritual … philosophical strivings and constraining” (356; 329) them. Further, he speaks of “monotheism” (389; 358)—explicitly Judaism and its two branches, Christianity and Islam—as being responsible for all of the fanaticism and violent excesses of religion. This includes those excesses that have taken the Jews as their object, such as the expulsions from Spain and the exterminations related to them (386; 356), which Schopenhauer surprisingly regrets while nonetheless hereby making the Jews responsible for their own persecution. The intolerance of monotheism, however, is here linked to what Schopenhauer situates as its core idea, that of the jealous God. For this God constitutes an absolute that is defined as nonrepresentable and at the same time as given in a specific set of representations of its nonrepresentability—the law. The monotheism thus made responsible here for the effacement of religion by politics is nothing other than the duplicity of signification, as a process in which representations at once cannot achieve the presentation of spirit or meaning and cannot avoid claiming to do so.

Finally, Schopenhauer at once criticizes the Jews for falsely and arbitrarily separating animals from humans and for giving off a “foetor Judaicus,” or Jewish smell.20 The contradiction inherent in this position is patent and self-intensifying. The Jews’ smell evidently makes them like animals. The fact that Schopenhauer thereby wants to separate them off from (p.194) the human into the animal realm, however, puts him into what he designates as the position of the Jew: He is fallaciously making distinctions of essence between animals and humans. Thus Schopenhauer must push the Jews away, purify himself of “Judaism,” with ever renewed vehemence.

The semiological parallels of this critique of Jewish anthropocentrism appear as follows. If Jewish thinking separates animals from humans, then evidently it does so in terms of a material/spiritual split, an attempt to separate spiritual humanity from material animality, or in linguistic terms to separate the ideal signified from the material signifier. This is Jewish abstraction, its radical monotheism. But it is also, of course, exactly what Schopenhauer himself wants to do, and what—from another perspective that typology dictates—the Jews precisely do not do, to the extent that, according to the “dead letter” charge, they are excessively bound up with the material. Both the abstraction of language and its materiality, and above all the uncontrollability of their disjointed indistinguishability, are associated here, sacrificially, with the Jews.

The entanglement of Schopenhauer’s own positions with those that he wants to designate and cast out as Jewish continues both to drive his resentment of the Jews and to prevent him from plausibly making them responsible for the ills of being-in-language that he wishes to solve for philosophical and politico-religious reasons. The typologically structured disavowal of the groundlessness of representation, then, governs his polemic against the Jews in the context of his discussion of church and state, a discussion whose goal is to draw out the theopolitical implications of his ethics. I now turn to that ethics itself.

Schopenhauer as the First Christian Philosopher: The Ancient Indian Fulfillment of Christian Ethics

Strikingly, Schopenhauer reasserts the typological paradigm at exactly the moment when he characterizes his own ethical position with respect to the entire tradition of ethical thought that precedes him. In one of the paragraphs from Parerga and Paralipomena in which Schopenhauer elaborates on his doctrine of the affirmation and negation of the will-to-live, he claims that his ethics stand in relation to all previous ethics in European philosophy as the New Testament in relation to the Old Testament.

My ethics is related to all the ethical systems of European philosophy as the New Testament to the Old, according to the ecclesiastical (p.195) conception of this relation [im Verhältnis des neuen Testaments zum alten; nach dem kirchlichen Begriff dieses Verhältnisses]. (340; 314)

Schopenhauer’s philosophy is thus, he says, “die eigentliche Christliche Philosophie” (341)—“the Christian philosophy proper” (315)_and all philosophy prior to his appearance on the scene boils down to “mere Judaism (plain, despotic theism)” (341; 314). As the Greeks—with the notable “Ausnahme,” or exception, of Plato—are optimists (let us imagine in passing Nietzsche’s apoplexy upon reading such a claim), it seems that for Schopenhauer Jewgreek is Greekjew, but since Christianity is Hindu in inspiration, the affinities between Greek and Jew in no way suggest that there is a significant, much less fundamental, affinity between Christian and Jew.

But how does Schopenhauer justify his claim that his ethics relates to all the others as New Testament to Old? The relation between the New Testament and the Old turns here around the traditional Pauline opposition between grace and law. Schopenhauer repeats that grace, which frees one from the law through faith, love of neighbor, and self-denial, leads to redemption, whereas the law does not. The mediator who is the center of the New Testament enables salvation, whereas the works of the Old Testament do not. Because Schopenhauer’s ethics turns around the negation of the will-to-live rather than what he calls “merely moral virtues” (bloß moralischen Tugenden), he is the first in the West to go back to the East and hence back behind works. This ethical development he takes to be the “sensu proprio” of the passage (Übergang) from Old Testament to New.

Of course, this proper, or literal, sense of the passage from Old to New is also the proper sense of the passage from the figural to the literal meaning of the will or testament of what will have been the self-negated subject. As Schopenhauer argues in other sections of the chapter “On Religion,” and as I have indicated, philosophy supplies the literal fulfillment of religion’s allegories. For example:

The common error of both [rationalism and supernaturalism in scriptural interpretation] is that in religion they look for the plain, dry, literal and unvarnished truth [die unverschleierte, trockne, buchstäbliche Wahrheit suchen]. But only philosophy aspires to this. Religion has only a truth that is suited to the people, one that is indirect, symbolical, allegorical [eine indirekte, eine symbolische, allegorische Wahrheit]. (425; 389)

And lest one imagine that philosophical literalization is not fulfillment, Schopenhauer suggests that if philosophy could one day express the “nackte Wahrheit” (as he himself claims to do):

(p.196) Then truth in a simple and intelligible form would naturally drive religion from the place which the latter had so long occupied as a deputy [vikarirend eingenommen] but had in precisely this way kept open for the former. Religion will then have fulfilled its mission [ihren Begriff erfüllt] and completed its course; it can then dismiss the race that it has brought to years of discretion [Mündigkeit] and itself expire in peace; such will be the euthanasia of religion [die Euthanasie der Religion]. (365; 337)21

It is worthy of note here that, since religion is the not-yet of philosophy just as Judaism is the not-yet of Christianity, the “euthanasia of religion” carries the echo here of the “euthanasia of Judaism” (but also more distantly that of the “euthanasia of Christianity”).

What the New Testament does for the Old, then, Schopenhauer’s philosophy will do for all previous philosophy, and for Christianity itself, which has not yet become truly Christian, that is, Indian, by going beyond itself to become philosophy. He will achieve Christianity and religion at once qua philosophy by providing “Grund, Zweck, und Ziel” (341)—“ground, purpose, and goal” (314)—as the Old Testament and all prior ethics do not. His thought provides us, he says, with a ground in the specific sense that it provides “the metaphysical ground [den metaphysischen Grund] of justice and love of other humans” (314; 341)—that is, a certain becoming-transparent of the principle of individuation (or the principle of sufficient reason and the appearances it occasions). This durchschauen, or “seeing through,” of the principle of individuation is the cause or origin of the sense of justice and love of other humans in the sympathetic understanding that we are all one on the level of the will. And Schopenhauer’s philosophy also gives us a purpose and goal in the form of the negation of the will-to-live “to which these [that is, justice and love of other humans] must lead in the end if they are perfectly (or completely) achieved [vollkommen geleistet]” (314; 341). The fulfillment of justice and love of humans, or sympathetic identification, is tantamount to the arrival at the goal of the negation of the will-to-live, which negation signifies redemption, or Erlösung. As we see here, then, the language of foundation—as efficient and final causality—constitutively organizes the claim to provide the “authentic Christian philosophy,” the realization of the Christian realization of the Jewish will and testament in the ethics of world-renunciation.

Through an imperceptible, infinitesimal displacement—that from “gänzliche Verleugnung seiner selbst” (340) (or “complete denial of oneself” [314]) to “gänzliche Verleugnung seiner selbst”—we can perceive the doubling of denial in Schopenhauer’s would-be Christian sense by the (p.197) Freudian notion of denial. “Verleugnung” in this Freudian sense—as the disavowal of a lack already acknowledged, the “I know well … but all the same,” of the perverse moment—functions here in the “disavowal of the self” as the disavowal of the inscription of the self in a law of individuation and desire marked by radical lack. Self-denial is here the denial of the constitutive situatedness of the self in a world of representations in turn haunted by a certain absent excess.

By virtue of this disavowal, Schopenhauer thinks he becomes the exception to the rule that all philosophy will be what he considers “Jewish” philosophy. He becomes the only—the first—philosophizing non-Jew that the West has ever known: the only one who has overcome the unfreedom or enslavement to the (always Jewish) law of the principle of sufficient reason, or egoism. As such, he is capable of leading, that is, of functioning as the sovereign leader, or Führer, insofar as he can guide us—the word he uses in this context is “hinführen” (341; 314)—along the path (or “Weg”) of the negation of the will-to-live, the negation of the value of life, to the redemption that it realizes.22

Schopenhauer’s Pessimism as Fulfillment of Spinoza’s Pantheistic Optimism

Schopenhauer concretizes the way in which his—first-ever Christian!—ethics distinguishes itself from all previous—Jewish—ethics by determining explicitly his relationship to pantheism, and more specifically to Spinozism. Pantheism and Spinozism are of crucial importance to Schopenhauer for at least three reasons. First, the post-Kantian philosophical debates Schopenhauer regards as contemporary are all bound up with Spinozism, ever since the earliest phases of the pantheism panic.

In consequence of Kant’s criticism of all speculative theology, almost all the philosophizers in Germany cast themselves back onto Spinoza, so that the whole series of unsuccessful attempts known by the name of post-Kantian philosophy is simply Spinozism tastelessly got up, veiled in all kinds of unintelligible language, and otherwise twisted and distorted. (58; 644)23

Second, as excommunicated Jew and free-thinker, and as the author of the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus, Spinoza—Benedict or Baruch?—challenges the Christian, Western philosophical tradition to rethink what “Jewish” and “Christian” mean. Third, the pantheism that the “Oriental” Jew (p.198) Spinoza is commonly thought to have introduced into the Western tradition has already, and long since, become the stereotypical image of “Oriental” thought within philosophical and philological circles by the time Schopenhauer begins his career.24 Given his embrace of Asian and especially Indian philosophy, Schopenhauer is compelled to work out the relation between himself and both pantheism and Spinozism in order to clarify his systematic standpoint.

Accordingly, Schopenhauer situates his discussion of the relationship between his philosophy and pantheism and Spinozism in no less important a place than the very last section of The World as Will and Representation (at the end of volume 2), titled “Epiphilosophie.” He says here: “My teaching … is related to Spinozism as the New Testament is to the Old” (59; 644). How does he argue for this typological placement of his work with respect to Spinoza’s, and how does this argument relate to the abyssal question of foundations? I begin with Schopenhauer’s account of pantheism in general.25

Schopenhauer opens the “Epiphilosophie” precisely by posing the question of the status of the world-will with respect to ultimate foundations. He then goes on to distinguish his thought from pantheism (and Spinozism) in terms of the difference between his way of (not) grounding the world (qua will) and the pantheistic and Spinozistic ways of trying and failing to ground the world—in God and substance, respectively. Schopenhauer asserts here that he does not claim to have explained the ultimate grounds of the will. Rather, in Kantian terms, he claims to have stayed with the surfaces, the “facts of outward and inward experience” (54; 640) and shown their “true and deepest connexion” (den wahren und tiefsten Zusammenhang derselben) (54; 640). Instead of going beyond “possible experience” (640), he has been “content to comprehend the true nature of the world according to its inner connexion with itself” (begnügt sich also damit, das Wesen der Welt, seinem innern Zusammenhang mit sich selbst nach, zu begreifen) (54).26 Schopenhauer emphasizes the internal coherence of the world—its Zusammenhang with itself—as opposed to a notion of ground in which one thing would find its ground or cause in another thing outside itself. (As in Schlegel, Goethe, and Hegel, the notion of coherence, or cohesion, functions in Schopenhauer, at this juncture, as a crucial way of conceiving immanent foundations. In the next chapter, we will see how, in contrast, Kafka develops a parodic fictional critique of Zusammenhang in its Orientalist context.) In accordance with Schopenhauer’s doctrine of the principle of sufficient reason, the possibility of an external ground is applicable only to the phenomena of the world, that is, to the world of (p.199) representations, not to the world as will, in the sense of the world as totality of beings/Being.

To all such questions [of the “ultimate grounds” (letzten Gründen) of the world] the reply would have to be, first, that the expression of the most universal and general form of our intellect is the principle of sufficient ground or reason [Grund], but that, on this very account, this principle finds application only to the phenomenon, not to the being-in-itself of things; but all whence and why rest on this principle alone. (55; 641)

In this sense, the will is indifferent to grounding: It is neither grounded nor is it susceptible to grounding. Its nongroundedness is not like the non-groundedness of phenomena: It is not a privation of ground, not an insufficiency, but rather a sufficiency of nongroundedness. This structure accords well with the structure of perverse disavowal that Octave Mannoni has unfolded with respect to superstitious disavowal of demystifications in terms of the utterance: “I know well … but all the same.…” Schopenhauer knows well that the will is ungrounded, but all the same, it is grounded within itself, as self-coherence, or Zusammenhang.

And yet Schopenhauer’s ambivalence and uncertainty about this sufficient nongroundedness of the will appear in two ways that require mention here. First, on the one hand, the will is designated as the essence of things, while on the other hand, Schopenhauer still worries the question of the essence beyond this essence. The essence of, or beyond, the essence of the world, he says, is not accessible to us: “The essence of things before or beyond the world, and consequently beyond the will, is not open to any investigation, because knowledge in general is itself only phenomenon and therefore it takes place only in the world” (56; 642). Schopenhauer here delineates “the limits of my philosophy and of all philosophy” (56; 642), repeating the Kantian move with respect to something like a thing-in-itself of, or beyond, the thing-in-itself.

But Schopenhauer’s ambivalence shows itself secondly in that the reason why the will has to be suspended is that it is groundless, without any final purpose (and the ground of a will has to be a finality). This is why it entails endless and senseless suffering. The insufficiency of the nongroundedness of the will appears therefore in the imperative of its renunciation. Hence, the will is, on the one hand, by a certain perverse rigor, indifferent to grounding, and on the other hand, in necessity of grounding, which takes place by means of its (self-) negation. Schopenhauer’s desire both to ground and not to ground the will in something outside it (even if that something is called “coherence”—Zusammenhang) will cause him to have (p.200) difficulty distinguishing himself from pantheism and Spinozism as neatly as he would like. Fulfillment—with and against Schopenhauer—is not always as fulfilling as one might have imagined.

Schopenhauer has begun the “Epiphilosophy” with the discussion of the world’s potential foundations because he wants to distinguish his version of the essence of the world from the pantheist and Spinozist versions. He wants to distinguish the will from God (in the case of pantheism in general) and from substance (in the case of Spinozism in particular). To state this difference, Schopenhauer asserts that he offers an immanent (54; 640) theory only, whereas these other cosmologies are transcendent—they go beyond the phenomenal world, or what Schopenhauer here calls natura naturata (a term Spinoza had employed), to explain its origin in a ground outside of it, called “God” or “substance.” Schopenhauer’s theory is immanent, he claims, because it is frankly anthropocentric and not theocosmological, as are both pantheism and Spinozism.

From the most ancient times, man has been called the microcosm. I have reversed the proposition, and have shown the world as the macranthropos, in so far as will and representation exhaust the true nature of the world as well as that of man. (57; 642)

The grounding of the will in its “internal coherence,” then, is—with and against Schopenhauer—its grounding in humanity, its understanding precisely in terms of the catachrestic figure, which is at once a personification, of the will. More narrowly, the place at which the will coheres with itself is in its negation, where its self-affirmation and its self-negation (contradictorily) coincide (as I argued above). If the pantheists reduce all possibility to the world, whereas Schopenhauer includes within the realm of possibility the will’s self-negation, as he asserts, then it is precisely in this marginally extraworldly or extrasecular negation, where the will’s full realization occurs, that its grounding in its coherence and in its anthropomorphic character are achieved, precisely beyond the world, on the verge of its disappearance.

We are compelled, therefore, to wonder whether Schopenhauer’s way of distinguishing himself from pantheism succeeds, or whether he is not rather realizing pantheism not so much by going beyond it as by contributing another version of it to the history of philosophy. Again, does not the sanctioning of a place beyond the world in its negation, as a place that nonetheless belongs to being, correspond to the pantheistic sanctioning of a ground of the world in God? In each case, one is transcending the groundlessness of the world by arbitrarily positing a stable place that (p.201) exceeds it. If Schopenhauer cannot reliably distinguish himself from those who provide a ground that is not one, then how will he escape from the abyss that he everywhere at once acknowledges and, in his optimistic and messianic hope of redemption, disavows? In order to suggest that this question remains a rhetorical one, I examine Schopenhauer’s presentation of the distinction between his own position and Spinozism. He treats Spinozism here as a special case of pantheism, although in his analysis it takes the form of the opposite of pantheism in important respects.

Thus far Schopenhauer has laid out the main terms in which his philosophy distinguishes itself from pantheism: It provides a more limited grounding than does pantheism, a grounding more human and subjective in its orientation, and so more reliable—grounding through the implicit rhetoric of a catachrestic and anthropomorphic synecdoche (the [human] will as the whole). He now goes on to distinguish his thought from Spinoza’s more particularly. He feels he must do so because (as I indicated above) following Jacobi, he sees all post-Kantian philosophy—what we know as German idealism—as one or another form of Spinozism. And manifestly Spinozism is a kind of optimism, because we are encouraged by Spinoza to affirm this world, loving its divine necessity, and to assert ourselves within it, even while tempering our passions. Here, then, is the point at which Schopenhauer boldly claims: “My teaching … is related to Spinozism as the New Testament is to the Old” (59; 644).

The Old and New Testament—two different “testaments” or “wills” (willing and willed doctrines of the will)—have in common the same “God-Creator” (59; 644). Just so, Schopenhauer and Spinoza share the same “world” that “exists … by its own inner power and through itself” (59; 644). Further, as the two testaments understand this God differently, so Spinoza and Schopenhauer interpret this world-substance in different ways, specifically with regard to its value.

Spinoza’s world is self-affirming:

With Spinoza, his substantia aeterna, the inner nature of the world, which he himself calls Deus, is also, as regards its moral character and worth, Jehovah, the God-Creator, who applauds his creation, and finds that everything has turned out excellently, panta kala lian…. All was very good. (59; 644)

Spinoza’s substance is the old Jehovah, albeit “deprived” of all “personality” (59; 644).

In contrast, Schopenhauer argues, his own “world”-concept does not coincide with Jehovah but with “as it were the crucified Saviour, or else the (p.202) crucified thief, according as it is decided” (59; 645). As a result, his ethics “is in accord with Christian ethics, and indeed with its highest tendencies, as not less with the ethics of Brahmanism and Buddhism” (59; 645). In other words, Schopenhauer’s world negates itself, as God negates himself, crucifying himself in the figure of his Son.

Despite Spinoza’s optimistic fault, however, he remains for Schopenhauer “a very great man” (60; 645), as indeed he must if Schopenhauer wishes to maintain that he himself is the realization of what Spinoza initiated. Spinoza’s greatness consists, however, in a (merely) negative achievement, the undoing of the Cartesian dualisms of mind/matter and nature/God. Yet the monism of substance does not suffice to ground the specific nongroundedness of the world. Spinoza’s achievement is only “negative,” then, because the mere equation of world with God does not suffice to “explain” the world. “For to call the world God is not yet to explain it” (Denn die Welt Gott nennen heißt nicht sie erklären) (60; 645). Spinoza only anticipates an appropriate explanation of the world that Schopenhauer claims he has achieved.

But how can Schopenhauer have “explained” the world if he hasn’t been able to ground it in any way in anything outside of itself? Moreover, his own account tends to be phrased in terms of a Verständnis or Verstehen, as Rüdiger Safranski has observed.27 In this sense, Schopenhauer manifestly provides no explanation in the sense of “Erklärung.” The problem here—the problem with which Schopenhauer is struggling in the entire “Epiphilosophy” chapter—is that in accordance with the principle of sufficient reason (in conjunction with the principle of noncontradiction), neither an explanation nor the lack of an explanation of the world is satisfactory. If the world is left ungrounded/unexplained, it needs a ground; but if it is grounded, and therefore necessarily grounded in something outside of itself (even if one calls that something the Zusammenhang or internal coherence of the world), then this ground in turn requires some sort of grounding. There seems to be no way of preventing the mind from asking after the foundation of the world as will, even when it tells itself it can never answer this question.

In response to this double inadequacy, Schopenhauer argues in the final turn of his argument that his position constitutes the Aufhebung of the opposition between these two strategies, in the forms of Spinozist rationalism and of the anti-Spinozist counterrationalism of Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi, who was the main opponent of Spinoza’s philosophy in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century Germany. Jacobi and those akin to him, (p.203) Schopenhauer recounts, refused to “confess” neo-Spinozism (sich zum aufgekommenen Neo-Spinozismus zu bekennen) out of the fear of fatalism. They refused to reduce the world and the “critical situation of the human race in it” (60; 646, trans. modified) to some “necessity” that cannot be explained any further. Instead, they reduced the world to “the free act of will of a being existing outside it” (60; 646) in a symmetrical reductiveness that, to his credit, Schopenhauer finds no less problematic. To ground the world in necessity or freedom, in mechanical or final causality, is equally untenable: In the former case, one leaves the world without any meaningful ground whatsoever, and in the latter, one grounds it in something—a transcendent, divine will—that is itself groundless, unexplained. (We can see here that Schopenhauer is implicitly and, it seems, unwittingly, assimilating to each other pantheism and Jacobi’s anti-Spinozism, since both reduce the world to God.) In place of these two inadequate solutions, Schopenhauer summarizes his own position as the following, which he conceives as the third possibility:

The act of will, from which the world springs, is our own. It is free: for the principle of sufficient reason or ground, from which alone all necessity has its meaning, is merely the form of the will’s phenomenal appearance. Just on this account, this phenomenal appearance is absolutely necessary in its course, when once it exists. In consequence of this alone can we recognize from the phenomenon the nature of the act of will, and accordingly eventualiter will otherwise. (60; 646)

Schopenhauer proposes that “our will” is the origin of the world, but that this free will becomes subject to the principle of sufficient reason when it affirms itself. Freedom thereby turns into necessity, life into death, spirit into the dead letter of the world of appearances, Vor-stellungen. Through this little narrative of the becoming-physical of the metaphysical (i.e., the will), Schopenhauer aims to combine freedom with necessity, Counter-Enlightenment with Enlightenment (and implicitly pantheism with Spinozism), and to point the way out of necessity back into freedom, the way of the self-negation of the will, through which it refuses to appear and thus refuses to subordinate itself further to the law of its own form, the principle of sufficient reason.

How, then, finally, is Schopenhauer’s answer to the question of the grounding of the world conceivable as the “fulfillment” of Spinoza’s answer? Since Schopenhauer has already indicated that the fulfillment is rooted in Christology, what exactly is the Christological structure or meaning of the (p.204) self-negation of the will? The sovereign limitlessness of the will is always doubled or haunted by the absolutely servile, endless limitedness of the phenomenon into which the will constitutively and incessantly transforms itself. For the will is the will to appearances. The father, then, becomes the son (the world of representation grasped by the saint as unworthy of persistence), who annihilates and is annihilated by the father (the will) insofar as he annihilates himself, thereby saving himself from endless annihilation. This is the ultra-Christian and therefore ultimately also would-be Hindu logic through which the will-to-life or the will-to-appearances crucifies itself—suspending itself as the law of the principle of sufficient reason—in order to attain to the grace of emancipation from the doomed hopefulness of longing. Through this self-negation, the will attains to a kind of fullness beyond fullness, a fullness reached paradoxically but also conventionally by the negative way of greater and greater emptiness. Die Wüste wächst (“the desert grows”), as Nietzsche’s vexing and vexed translation will have it almost three quarters of a century later.

Beyond and through the Christological structure of the will’s selfnegation, when Schopenhauer says that his thought relates to Spinoza’s as New Testament to Old Testament, he means principally three things. (1) Spinoza’s Jewish optimism is here overturned by a pessimism that returns the myth of the fall from grace to the fundamental and totalizing status it enjoys in Hindu thought (i.e., the appearance of the world as fall). The accident becomes the paradigm, but also its overcoming: The exception becomes the rule in the (bad) reality of the world as well as in its (good) negation, in the form of Jew and saint, respectively. The optimistic Western Jehovah is replaced by the pessimistic Eastern Christ. (2) At the same time, Schopenhauer claims to go beyond Spinoza by getting rid of God, proposing an immanent reading of the world in place of the reading that, in Spinoza, remained still all-too-transcendent, despite Spinoza’s efforts to think divinity and nature together. As the Jewish God is too “abstract,” the Christian God-as-Man properly concrete, so Spinoza’s solution and its mirror-image, the pantheistic Counter-Enlightenment, are too “abstract,” always one-sided, but Schopenhauer’s solution is dialectically self-mediating, despite Schopenhauer’s hatred of Hegel. (3) Finally, whereas Spinoza replaces freely willed creation with mechanical necessity, prefiguring the overcoming of the senseless irrationality of such an act of creation, Schopenhauer is able to synthesize mechanical necessity with freedom in order to go beyond the limitations of both, realizing a higher freedom, the freedom from freedom (and its opposite) that is attained at the pinnacle of (p.205) the will’s self-negation. In this concluding chapter of The World as Will and Representation, volume 2, the metaphysical disavowal of endless nonfulfillment or desire (that is, the vision of an eventual self-negation of the will) coincides with the reinstallation of the typological political theology of fulfillment. This takes place despite the inconsistency of such a political theology (or politics of religion, or religiocultural ideology) with the view of representation that underlies it, where representation is determined as the endlessly anticipatory (and retrospective) appearance of radical lack or desire.

The Bifurcated Oriental: The Indian as Sovereign Saint, the Jew as Homo sacer

In conclusion, what does Schopenhauer’s ambivalence about his radical contributions to the history of philosophy, hermeneutics, and philosophy of history finally mean for the notion of the Oriental in Schopenhauer, and for his “Orientalism”? As we have seen, the Jews and Indians remain in his text two extremes of the “Orient” that are not permitted to come into contact with each other. The Jews function as the foreign extreme, the Indians as the native extreme, the part of the alien origin that is always already “our” origin, the Other as appropriable origin of the Self-Same. Schopenhauer writes in the Parerga and Paralipomena that the Jews “are and remain a foreign Oriental people, and so must always be regarded merely as domiciled foreigners” (sind und bleiben ein fremdes, Orientalisches Volk, müssen daher stets nur als ansässige Fremde gelten) (286; 264). While the Jews remain a “foreign, Oriental” people, the Indians—and especially the ancient Indians, are somehow not foreign, though no less Oriental. In order to be appropriated, the origin we have outside ourselves must always be divided from itself into the one that is properly our own and the one that is alien.

Schopenhauer’s division of the Oriental origin into alien and familiar enables him to find a place in which to situate that aspect of grounding that ungrounds what it grounds, the place of the interpenetration of grounding and ungrounding, on the border where both come undone. This helps lay a “foundation,” as epistemologically shaky as it will be performatively real, for the Aryan myth that will nourish the growth of German fascism and the ideological legitimation of its unspeakable horror one century on.

(p.206) In terms of sovereignty and exception, the sovereign (as saint, or Indian) is always haunted in Schopenhauer by its identity with the emergency itself (or the homo sacer, here the Jew) that it characterizes as what interrupts its own state. Schopenhauer’s saint is (the negation of) the Jew, who in the death camps will be transformed into the horrifying essence of nonessence she or he here represents: the will as “hungry”: a human being in the process of being starved and worked to death.

Notes:

(1.) Wilhelm Halbfass explains in India and Europe: An Essay in Understanding (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1988), 100–105.

(2.) For example: “All willing springs from lack, from deficiency, and thus from suffering. Fulfillment [Erfüllung] brings this to an end; yet for one wish that is fulfilled there remain at least ten that are denied.… But even the final satisfaction itself is only apparent; the wish fulfilled at once makes way for a new one.” Arthur Schopenhauer, Werke in zwei Bänden, ed. Werner Brede (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, n.d.), vol. 1, Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 262. In English, from The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols. (New York: Dover, 1969), 1:196. References to these editions are given below parenthetically in the text, first to the German and then to the English edition. Translations here as elsewhere occasionally modified to represent more accurately the German original.

(3.) Chetan Batt, “Primordial Being: Enlightenment, Schopenhauer, and the Indian Subject of Postcolonial Theory,” Radical Philosophy 100 (March/April 2000): 28–41.

(4.) On Schopenhauer’s philosophy and Indian thought, see René Gérard, L’orient et la pensée romantique allemande (Paris: Marcel Didier, 1963), 215–51; Moira Nicholls, “The Influences of Eastern Thought on Schopenhauer’s Doctrine of the Thing-in-Itself” (which contains a useful appendix listing (p.327) Schopenhauer’s references to Oriental sources), in The Cambridge Companion to Schopenhauer, ed. Christopher Janaway (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 171–213; Lakshmi Kapani, “Schopenhauer et son interprétation du ‘Tu es cela,’” in L’inde inspiratrice: Réception de l’Inde en France et en Allemagne (XIXe et Xxe siècles), ed. Michel Hulin and Christine Maillard (Strasbourg: Presses universitaires de Strasbourg, 1996), 45–70; Ram Adhar Mall, “Wie indisch ist das Indienbild Schopenhauers?” Schopenhauer-Jahrbuch 76 (1995): 151–72; and Douglas L. Berger, “The Veil of Maya”: Schopenhauer’s System and Early Indian Thought (Binghamton, N.Y.: Global Academic Publishing, 2004). On Indian thought in modern Germany since Schopenhauer, see Heinz Bechert, “Flucht in den Orient?” Schopenhauer-Jahrbuch 62 (1981): 55–66. On Schopenhauer’s version of the Aryan-Semitic opposition, see Gregory Moore, “From Buddhism to Bolshevism: Some Orientalist Themes in German Thought,” German Life and Letters 56, no. 1 (2003): 20–42. On Schopenhauer and Buddhism, see Roger-Pol Droit, Le culte du néant: Les philosophes et le Bouddha (Paris: Éditions due Seuil, 1997), 135–53, and Peter Abelsen, “Schopenhauer and Buddhism,” Philosophy East and West 43, no. 1 (1993): 255–78.

(5.) In India and Europe, Halbfass notes this tension between Schopenhauer’s self-subordination to ancient Indian wisdom and his claims to constitute its “standard and fulfillment” (114).

(6.) Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998), 168.

(7.) Douglas L. Berger, “’The Poorest Form of Theism’: Schopenhauer, Islam, and the Perils of Comparative Hermeneutics,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 15, no. 1 (2004): 135–46.

(8.) Arthur Schopenhauer, Parerga und Paralipomena: Kleine philosophische Schriften, in Schopenhauers Sämmtliche Werke in fünf Bänden, Großherzog Wilhelm Ernst Ausgabe (Leipzig: Insel Verlag), 5:412. In English, Parerga and Paralipomena: Short Philosophical Essays, 2 vols., trans. E. F. J. Payne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1974), 2:378. Further references are given parenthetically in the text, first to the German, then to the English edition. We should note in passing the fact that “fundamental characteristic” or “Grundcharakter” is itself a problematic concept in the “context” of a will—a world—that is groundless.

(p.328) (10.) Schopenhauer favors its Catholic manifestations. In this respect, he is still sympathetic to a romantic perspective like the later Schlegel’s. But he is not so sympathetic as to recapitulate Schlegel’s—or more generally the German neo-Catholic romantic—take on the history of religions.

(11.) Spinoza too is an opponent of hope in its collusion with doubt, but in a very different sense from Schopenhauer.

(12.) On the “Doctrine of Immortality” or “Unsterblichkeitslehre,” see Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2, chap. 12, “Additional Remarks on the Doctrine of the Suffering of the World” (“Vom Leiden der Welt”), §156 (327; 30); and on metempsychosis, see the same text, §177 (368; 365–66). And in turn, Schopenhauer’s preference for the doctrine of reincarnation over the doctrine of creation out of nothing and his hostility to the idea of miracles—at least if one follows on this point the reasoning of Carl Schmitt—seem to contradict rather than support the possibility of the transcendent and redemptive exception that is represented by the self-negation of the will.

(13.) Against established religions, see 427–28; 392; and against the medieval founding of state on religion, see 374; 345.

(14.) Hent de Vries, “Zum Begriff der Allegorie in Schopenhauers Religionsphilosophie,” in Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, und die Kunst, ed. Wolfgang Schirmacher (Vienna: Passagen Verlag, 1991), 187–97.

(15.) The use of “paralysis” here contrasts strikingly with Franz Rosenzweig’s use of the term with reference to Parmenidean metaphysics.

(16.) See further the section “On Language and Words,” in Parerga and Paralipomena, vol. 2.

(17.) If one takes the term “Vor-stellung” (as it were) literally, it looks very much like pre-figuration, even if Vorstellungen in Schopenhauer are preprefigured (nonfigurally) in the will.

(18.) The Jews are represented by Schopenhauer as figures of theft (387; 357), stealing from the Egyptians their gold and silver, hence that which stands for the medium of exchange, the medium of the determination of value, their “language” of money. The Jews represent here the stealing away of money and language at once.

(19.) If one encourages intermarriage, he says, one can get rid of the “tragic-comic nonessence [Unwesen]” in the quietest way possible, and so within about one hundred years “the ghost” (das Gespenst) could be “entirely exorcized, Ahasuerus buried and the chosen people will not know where it has gone” (286; 264).

(20.) Note the contrast between the foetor Judaicus in Schopenhauer, on the one hand, and his sense of India’s spirit as possessing “the fragrance of a bloom” quoted above, on the other hand.

(p.329) (21.) Even if in the mouth of the character Philalethes, the utterance fits with those to which Schopenhauer signs his own name elsewhere, concerning the eventual, potential replacement of religion by philosophy.

(22.) Gottfried Benn, “Pessimismus” (1943), in Gesammelte Werke in der Fassung der Erstdrucke. 4 vols., ed. Bruno Hillebrand (Frankfurt am Main: Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, 1989), 3:393–8.

(23.) References to the “Epiphilosophie,” given parenthetically in text, concern the Werner Brede German edition and the Payne translation indicated above, in both cases the second volume.

(24.) Dorothy Figueira, The Exotic: A Decadent Quest (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1994), 63–90.

(25.) Cf. “A few words on pantheism” in Parerga and Paralipomena, 2:116–19; 99–102.

(26.) The Kantian language here rings a little bit hollow, since to grasp “the essence of the world” (“das Wesen der Welt”) as Schopenhauer claims to—to describe the “thing-in-itself ” as will, and so on—would have been, for Kant, to go rather far beyond the limits of possible experience, if only by virtue of the “impoverished” concept of experience that Walter Benjamin has shown Kant to possess.

(27.) Rüdiger Safranski, Schopenhauer und die wilden Jahre der Philosophie: Eine Biographie (Munich: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1987), 320–23.